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We have all heard the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” It is safe to declare that quote as outdated and quite frankly, dismissive to folks’ experiences for when words cause harm. We now understand and can see that our choice in the language we use have a bigger impact. Words carry out messages from the heart and travel out to the world – and unfortunately not everyone has good intentions when speaking from the heart.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and as we take this time to discuss and reflect on mental wellbeing, it’s important that we carry with compassion and intention the language we speak into the world. Our choice of words has remarkable power – a power to uplift or to tear down, to heal or to harm. It is our decision to use words either as a balm or a weapon.

The words that our friends, caregivers, educators, and political leaders use, matter. Friends can validate friends when they are facing a challenging time. Mental health clinicians can help provide tools to their clients to label their emotions and triggers and ground themselves in creating balance. Artists can write poetry and songs that speak to our soul and honor our shared lived experiences. We also see how anyone can use words as tools of harm and create division amongst our communities.

We, as staff of The Center, carry the responsibility to create safe and supportive environments where LGBTQ+ individuals can thrive – and one of the many ways we accomplish this is bringing intentionality to our words. Here is how and why we do this work:

In our society, where LGBTQ+ individuals often face disproportionate rates of mental health challenges due to societal stigma and discrimination, our choice of language plays a crucial role. We hone into the power of words by intentionally honoring folk’s chosen names and pronouns. We do this by refraining from assuming one’s gender identity and using gender neutral language until we know the words and phrases that truly align with a person’s identity. Research suggests that when we accomplish this, we are engaging in active suicide prevention. The impact here is that by utilizing inclusive language, we are then fostering a stronger sense of belonging and acceptance.

So, here’s our call to action – Let’s speak with intentionality and compassion. We share collective power in our impact by engaging in authentic allyship through our words. Let’s educate ourselves on LGBTQ+ identities and terminology, and let’s create spaces where everyone feels safe to express themselves authentically and are celebrated for how folks choose to show up in this world. By using inclusive language, we not only support the mental health of LGBTQ+ individuals but also contribute to building a more equitable and compassionate society for all. Together, let’s harness the power of words to uplift, empower, and create positive change. Let’s make every word count as we strive towards a world where mental health is celebrated, and LGBTQ+ inclusion is the norm.

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